The main aim of this paper is to look at what green computing is, why we should care about it and why it is becoming such a force in today’s world. The paper aims to tackle the advantages of green computing not only to businesses but also to individuals as well in their day to day lives. This paper also aims to look at different green computing implementations in Kenya in order to get an understanding of the current state of green computing in the country.
Finally, this paper also aims to highlight key barriers and challenges to the implementation of different green computing technologies within the country and suggest a way forward.
In order to look at the current state of green computing in Kenya, we first need to understand what green computing is and what it entails. According to San Murugesan (Murugesan, 2008) in his paper on Harnessing green IT, Green IT (Also known as Green ICT or Green Computing) refers to environmentally sound IT.
It focusses on the study and practice of designing, manufacturing, using and disposing of computers, servers and any associated subsystems in an effective and efficient manner with minimal to no impact on the environment. These subsystems include things such as monitors, printers, and storage devices as well as other items like communication and networking equipment.
Murugesan goes on to say that Green computing also strives to achieve economic viability and improved system performance and use, while abiding to ethical and social responsibilities.
It is for this reason that green computing covers areas such as environmental sustainability, energy efficiency, total cost of ownership as well as cost of disposal and even recycling. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is one the fastest growing industries in the world. This is due to a combination of different factors, but more recently this growth has been fuelled by the following factors. The first is the rapid pace of technology advancement. The second is the continued drop in prices of various hardware which has led to increased demand and acquisition of said hardware.
According to Wabwoba, F., Wanyembi, W. G., & Omuterema, S. (2012) this rapid growth in ICT is creating lots of challenges especially within developing countries like Kenya. The first of these challenges is that ICT devices have much shorter lifespans. A good example of this is mobile devices which on average are replaces every 2 years. The danger of this is that it creates a lot of Electronic waste (e-waste) which is one of the fastest growing types of waste in the modern world today and one of the most difficult to dispose of in a safe and cost effective manner. As many third world countries rely on hardware donations, most of these obsolete devices will find their way into these countries. This not only increases the rate of harmful emissions, it also endangers the lives of people as well as the environment. This in turn leads to environmental degradation, increases the cost of doing business as well as power demands and demand for social responsibility.
Basically, Green computing is becoming more of a necessity and less of an option.
As we discussed earlier, ICT is playing an increasingly important role in both Business as well as in Private undertakings. This is true for most of the world as this has been fuelled by the rapid pace at which technology has been advancing. The big question then becomes, “Why should anyone care about Green Computing/ICT/IT?” In looking at this, we will understand what benefits as well as what challenges we can expect from adopting green computing technologies not only in our businesses, but in our homes as well. According to Wabwoba, F., Wanyembi, W. G., & Omuterema, S. (2012), green computing focuses on more than just electricity consumption. It goes beyond the function of the ICT department. Green ICT acts as a central enabling technology to many aspects of sustainability. It goes beyond purchasing and usage considerations into how it can be used to lessen other aspects of environmental impact in the other sectors that it supports.
The article goes on to say that this sustainability can be achieved through dematerialization and changing physical processes into virtual ones. Green ICT therefore brings together themes concerning the future of our current world, technology as well as the environment. San Murugesan’s article on Harnessing Green IT: Principles and Practices shares a similar view to that of Wabwoba, F., Wanyembi, W. G., & Omuterema, S. San Murugesan’s article goes on to say that many of today’s environmental issues are having an impact on the competiveness of the IT business sector. Basically, businesses with the technology and vision to provide products and services that address the various environmental issues we have today, will enjoy some sort of competitive advantage. Many customers are now taking into consideration a service provider’s environmental records as well as initiatives. These factors are having a substantial effect on customers’ purchasing, leasing and outsourcing decisions.
Green computing looks to solve many of the challenges that businesses face today. An example of one of these challenges is higher energy costs. ”Businesses face higher energy costs, and they may also incur additional government levies if they do not address the environmental implications of their practices.” (Murugesan, 2008, p.26). “Investors and customers are beginning to demand more disclosures from companies with regard to their carbon footprint as well as their environmental initiatives and achievements, and they have started discounting share prices of companies that poorly address the environmental problems the create ”. This means that many companies today have begun to show their environmental credentials to customers as a way to gaining an upper hand over competitors.
Many businesses as well as individuals are also looking to achieve better energy efficiency through adopting green initiatives. This in turn will lead to financial benefits especially when electrical energy is at a premium and energy prices continue to rise. This is actually one of the major reasons for individuals as well as companies to start adopting eco-responsible practices. This means that many companies are bound to prioritize environmental issues for energy efficiency as well as cost-control benefits. An example of this in the real world is companies such as Dell and Wall-Mart. These two companies have both adopted initiatives that force their suppliers to adhere to environmentally sound practices.
In a paper titled Pervasiveness of green ICT awareness amongst Kenyan ICT personnel Wabwoba, F., Wanyembi, W. G., Omuterema, S., & Mutua, S. M., (2013), the writers listed some of the various benefits of green ICT.
The benefits of green ICT to the Environment/Society as well as to Companies include the following:
The paper goes a step further by grouping the benefits of green ICT according to the Capital Market, Employees’, Customers’ as well as Public levels. These are shown below:
Capital Market level benefits
Customers’ level benefits
Public level benefits
Here we shall look at examples of green computing implementations and initiatives within Kenya. The first example we shall look at is from Tea companies in Kenya go green through carbon finance (2013). Basically, several tea factories from the Nyeri district, all under the management of the Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) chose to go green through a project titled “Guru Project”. The name Guru Project comes from the nearby Guru River in the Nyeri region. Much of the tea-manufacturing process requires electricity for processes like withering, cutting and drying tea leaves. Unfortunately, the factories would experience frequent power outages and poor power quality.
The Guru Project aims to construct a hydro-power plant using water from the Guru River to generate power for the factories, thus allowing them to stop using the national grid. The benefit of this is that it will help reduce carbon emissions by some 38,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. On top of that, the factories will receive additional returns on their investment in lower emissions through carbon credits provided by the Clean Development Mechanism as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
The second example we shall look at shows how Kenyan companies that are going green can be rewarded for it. There was an article in the Business Daily from December 10th 2013 that looks at this, Ciuri, S. (2013). The newspaper Article looks at how 2 Kenyan companies that won 6.5 million Kenya Shillings for running green Enterprises. The companies in question are Continental Renewable Energy Company and Wanda Organic Company. Continental Renewable Energy Company converts plastic waste into low cost building materials and they won 4.23 Million Kenya Shillings as a reward. Wanda Organic Company on the other hand is an organic fertiliser Distributor and won 2.16 million Kenya Shillings. They were rewarded the money by Growth Hub which is an initiative to support businesses that want to pursue environmental conservation.
The next example looks at how choosing to go green can help you gain a competitive advantage over other companies, as well as gain recognition in certain markets. We shall refer to an article on the East Africa Top 100 website from January 29th 2014, Going green wins entrepreneur the 2013 SME crown (2014). It follows the story of Dinesh Tembherkar who is a mechanical engineer by profession. He founded his own company called Lean Energy Solutions after being unsatisfied with formal employment for many years. Lena Energy Solutions is a company that provides Energy Management consultancy services within East Africa.
They have been involved in energy and project management and offer comprehensive energy audits, investment grade audits, trainings in energy management, manufacturing of Lean Briqs and other related projects such as Boiler conversion from oil fired to solid fuel fired and swimming pool heating. Basically, their methodology helps their clientele to improve on productivity and maximize bottom line performance. This has allowed them to differentiate their goods and services from those of competitors, and it allowed them to be recognized as one of Kenya’s fastest growing mid-sized companies in the 2013 edition of the Top 100 mid-sized firms. This competition is held in the form of a survey that is sponsored by the Nation Media Group and the consultancy firm KPMG.
Finally, we shall look at how various individual can play a role in contributing to the adoption of Green computing technologies and what impact it can have on their lives. Mbori, C. (n.d.) has a very good article in one of his blogs that looks at the cost of conventional energy in Kenya. In the article we see that Kenya is classified as an energy poor country since majority of the population spend huge amounts of their household income on energy. This is especially true for rural areas. As at the time of writing the article, Kenya only provided 15 percent of the population with access to grid electricity out of which only 4 percent was in rural areas. Less than 25 percent of Kenya’s population had access to modern energy forms. This means that many households in Kenya still rely on older forms of energy for heating, cooking and lighting like kerosene, charcoal and even candles.
Kenya is located along the equator, which means that there is an abundance of renewable energy in the form of sunlight which many people are yet to take advantage of. Though, there has been a surge in the adoption of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies or solar electric systems. These systems allow you to capture the sun’s energy using photovoltaic cells and can work even on a cloudy day. Many of these PV modules are mainly use for lighting, cell phone charging as well as refrigeration and entertainment. At the time of writing the article, there were more than 200,000 PV modules installed in Kenya. That number was steadily increasing at a rate of around 30,000 PV modules annually. Mwaura, M. (2010) shared a short YouTube video and article about how one old man named Ben Mureithi who is a retired civil servant was able to use renewable energy to better his life.
He settled down in a very remote part of Kiserian where there was no electricity and no running water. By installing solar panels, he was able to power his entire home for entertainment, lighting and heated water. To solve his water problem, he was able to capture rain water using drainage pipes from his roof into a big underground tank. He is able to use the water for his day to day needs and even to irrigate plants that he grows. This proved to be so effective that in 2006 during a drought in the area, he was able to supply water to some other people in the area.
People like Mr Mureithi are able to succeed in such harsh areas because they have adopted green technologies and green practices in order to make the best use of the resources available to us all. Another factor that has enabled this is the advent of low-cost solar in Kenya. Traditionally, solar has always been out of the reach of most people because the cost of setting it up has always been high. Low-Cost Solar Invades Kenya (2010) looks at some low cost solar powered technologies and kits which are currently available in Kenya today. The first one the writer looks at is the Solantern which is essentially solar powered lantern that can be charged during the day and runs at night.
The lantern was intended to help replace kerosene lamps in many Kenyan households and allow them to save money and the environment at the same time. It was retailing for about 2000 Kenya Shillings in the year 2010. Another low cost solution discussed is the ToughStuff which is a solar kit that comes with a small solar panel and different kinds of connectors. It can be used to charge a small LED lamp, mobile phones, a rechargeable power pack and some cheap rechargeable D-cell rechargeable batteries for powering other devices. The unit is sold through Chloride Exide in Kenya as well as in a few other shops. These are just a few of the many examples of technologies that promote selfsustainability as well as changing peoples’ lives for the better.
From what we have discussed in this article, we can see that Kenya still has a long way to go before we are able to achieve any major milestones in regards to green computing and adoption of green technologies. Below we shall look at a few of the major challenges that have prevented us from advancing with regards to green computing. We shall refer to the article Barriers to Implementation of Green ICT in Kenya, (Wabwoba, F., Wanyembi, W. G., Omuterema, S. 2012, p.832, p.833).
From the article, we see that the number one barrier to implementation of green ICT in Kenya is the lack of technical skilled or trained manpower in green ICT. This goes to show that a lot of work still needs to be done in creating awareness about the importance of going green and the opportunities available by making the switch.
The way forward is to first focus on changing peoples’ opinions about green computing as a whole since a lot of the major adoption challenges are due to poor attitude and lack of information in general. It is only in this way that we can get people to see the importance of creating a self-sufficient country, and all the good it will do not only for the environment but for all citizens as well.
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